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Saturday, December 3, 2016
Canada celebrates canonization of Blessed Andre Bessette
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Blessed Andre Bessette

More than 5,000 Canadians are gathering in Rome this weekend to attend the canonization Blessed Andre Bessette, who will be their country's first native-born male saint. In Canada, the Archdiocese of Montreal is organising a number of events to celebrate the event, in the city where Brother Andre  served for most of his ministry.

St. Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal, which was founded by Brother André in 1904, will be the central focus for activities before and during the canonization ceremonies. An all night prayer vigil will be held tonight at the Oratory; uniting pilgrims in Rome and in Canada in prayerful reflection and celebration of Brother André’s spiritual life and heritage.

The vigil will begin with andlelight prayer followed with presentations of lectures on the life of Brother André by groups with which he was closely associated.

Taize Night prayers will be followed by Adoration, morning prayer), and finally a procession from the tomb of Brother André to the Basilica of St Joseph.

After viewing the canonization Masson large screens,  a Mass will follow in the Basilica of St Joseph, which will include public display of an icon depicting St André, painted by a local iconographer from Brother André's home diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe.

Throughout the rest of the day, there will be a special concert in the crypt church with chamber music and then a carillon recital. The celebration of the canonization will conclude with an organ concert at the Basilica.

Next Wednesday, the Archdiocese of Montreal, with the Oratory of Mount St Joseph, will host a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Montreal Olympic Stadium beginning at 2pm.

This Mass is a national celebration for the entire Catholic Church in Canada, and pilgrims are anticipated from all over the country and the world. The celebrants of the liturgy will be the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Alfred Bessette was born on 9 August, 1845, near Montreal in Canada, the eighth of twelve children. When Alfred was nine, his father, a wood cutter, died in a work accident. Three years later, his mother died of TB. The children were split up and placed in different homes. Alfred went to live with an aunt and uncle.

Because his family had been so poor and he was often sick, Alfred had very little education. For the next thirteen years he had jobs on a farm, with a shoemakers, and at a bakery. For a time he worked in a factory in Connecticut.

At the age of 25, he joined the order of Holy Cross and chose the name Brother Andre. He spent the next forty years as a general maintenance man and messenger. In his later years he worked as a doorman at the order's college. Here, Brother Andre's healing power became known. Many came to him with their illnesses and problems. As more and more people learnt about him he would spend eight to ten hours a day with those who needed spiritual healing and support. He became so well known that secretaries had to be assigned to answer the 80,000 letters he received annually.

When people came to ask him for a cure, he would tell them to first thank God for their suffering because it was so valuable. Then he would pray with them. Most were cured. Brother Andre always refused credit for the healing. He insisted it had been the person's faith and the power of St Joseph.

Brother Andre had a great love for the Eucharist and for St Joseph. For many years he gathered funds to rebuild a run down little chapel on Mont Royale. One way he raised money was by cutting the hair of the students at five cents each. The Oratory that he helped to build in honour of St Joseph was solemnly dedicated in 1955.

Brother Andre died peacefully on this day in 1937. Braving sleet and snow, nearly a million people climbed Mount Royale to St Joseph's Oratory for his funeral. He was proclaimed 'Blessed' on May 23, 1982, by Pope John Paul II.

Blessed Andre is one of five new saints to be declared tomorrow. Blessed Mary MacKillop will become Australia's first saint.

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